The Fiat group are on a new model rampage now and over the next number years across all of their brand offering from Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Jeep. The have without surprise, decided to take on the massive compact SUV/Crossover market. The Fiat 500X is a great first attempt and deserves to make a dent in the segment. The Jeep Renegade is based on the same platform but takes a completely different direction, so is it missing the point of its focus?
It would appear not. The Jeep is a much more rough and ready approach to the compact SUV market and focuses on a more youthful dynamic market rather than your usual small family approach. It’s a much more rugged machine overall with added customisation with an emphasis on real off road capabilities. It would appear to be a clever approach by the Italian giant by attracting the young mother of two with the stylish Fiat 500 and the free and easy twenty somethings with the burly Renegade.
Here’s the anomaly, I’m a youngish male, married and a father of two young children. The Jeeps sense of adventure definitely appeals to a certain side of me, but the fact is, it was always going to be used for all of those everyday practical things like school runs, shopping and random visits to the park. So while it already proved itself off-road at the Irish launch back in April, I find out how it really fared against its 500X cousin. Unfortunately this meant that the Renegade’s rather cool ‘Jeep Terrain Control’ that enables you to maximise traction switching between Auto/Snow/Sand/Mud did not come into play once during the week. At least I could show my mates what it could do… if it had to.
The Jeep enters a very competitive but lucrative market being a compact SUV but the Renegade brings a new welcomed edge to the market as its exterior design personifies the Jeep heritage. It’s elevated with a squared off design complete with the iconic Jeep grille. It’s rough and ready approach is a welcomed addition to a market where the fashionable ‘coupe roof lined’ method prevails. It features plenty of neat little design cues and throwbacks too in the shape of Renegade logo shaped taillights, a miniature Jeep Willys profile on the inside of the front windscreen and a hidden emblem within the petrol cap adding subtle touches of coolness to the exterior.
Inside there are similar touches like ‘1946’ embossed on the centre console, a grab handle in front of the passenger seat, funky oversized air vents, chunky cup holders and ‘mud splashed’ rev counter adding that touch of manliness. The dash design may not be the most exciting in the world, but it’s chunky, has a sense of durability thanks to an obvious use of quality materials and is well put together. There are obvious carry overs from the Fiat 500X in the shape of the A/C switchgear and the UConnect infotainment system. Head space is ample, as it is in the rear too. Boot space is similar to average sized hatchback at 285 litres. The seats are comfortable but could do with more support around the hip area, but all in all a pleasant place to be.
Our test car was the two wheel drive ‘Limited’ specification fitted with a 1.6 litre Multijet II diesel engine with 120bhp and mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. The Jeep is available in four specifications Sport/Longtitude/Limited and the range topping 4WD ‘Trailhawk’ that is also available with a 9-speed automatic transmission with locking differentials for the proper off-road enthusiast. Driving the Renegade off-road was a fun experience while on the road it’s more comfortable then you might expect. It soaks up Irish roads imperfections well and the 1.6 diesel is potent unit. It never feels like you are lacking in power in any gear and performs not too far from a hatchback in this regard. Get higher into the rev range however and the Jeep does become a little loud and raucous, but if you remain light footed, the Jeep remains civilised. On the motorway, things do become a little louder in term of wind noise and it does not feel quite as composed at speeds around 120kmh.
While the Jeep Renegade may not be on every couple’s radar when it comes to buying a compact crossover, it is an option that will tug at the man’s heartstrings. In a market where the majority of buyers/drivers will be of the female persuasion, it might not come out on top, but what a great option if you are the persuasive purse holding type of husband.
It may not be the most competitively priced choice starting at €22,950, the Renault Captur €19,590, Nissan Juke €19,795 and Citroen Cactus €17,795. But if you are the type to throw your bike in the back and head off up the mountains of a Saturday, it’s the perfect compromise and cheaper than the similar rugged Skoda Yeti at €23,995.
Read our review of the new Jeep Cherokee
Read our review of our launch drive of the Jeep Renegade